Home Virginia Politics McDonnell Scandal: When is a Husband Responsible for a Wife’s Actions?

McDonnell Scandal: When is a Husband Responsible for a Wife’s Actions?


by Paul Goldman

The following column should be read with the new Dire Straits song, “Money for Nothing and Your First Lady for Free” in the background.

We learn today what I speculated about weeks ago, what the federal prosecutors and Governor McDonnell’s legal team have known for sure from jump street: that First Lady Maureen McDonnell had been lured – willingly – by Star Scientific “business” hustler Jonnie Williams into a de facto financial affair, where Ms. McDonnell was a de facto paid agent to promote his companies last dietary product.

We learned in today’s newspapers the $50K loan from Williams to the First Lady was made largely if not solely to enable her to buy Star stock. That Mrs. McD would want to own this stock made perfect sense, since it was being touted by some as a potential gold mine, now $5 a share, for a company that might be worth 1000% that or way more in the near future.

So Williams agreed to loan her the money to buy the stock not long before she had agreed to speak at one of his conferences on the product. Moreover, as I written before, I believe Williams made her promises of stock options and other stock related stuff when she was no longer First Lady and could be openly a major spokesperson and sales person for the company.

This is why I have labeled her W—–T—-, selling out the Governor’s Mansion and the role of First Lady for some quick cash and promises of riches from a hustler like Jonnie Williams.


How much did the Governor know and when did he know? That’s the old Watergate Scandal question and it remains the same for all scandals, Giftgate the latest. Governor McDonnell claims that he knew nothing of his wife’s purchases of Star stock. He did list the $50K loan on his disclosure forms. But his disclosure forms never mention his wife owning Star Scientific stock.

In effect, our Governor is using the German defense of Sgt. Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes: “I know nothing. Nothing!” That was one funny show, and gutsy too. That America could eventually laugh and forgive the Germans is amazing, shows what a great country we can be. Look at Egypt: 5,000 years and those folks will go another 5,000. Why do we give them a dime? I suppose it gets down to the Suez Canal. But that is more a British and European problem than ours.

Back to the Governor married to W—–T—–. Should we feel sorry for old Bob, should we believe that his wife was simply out of control and doing this stuff without his knowledge, even though anyone with any sense knew it could ruin her husband?

As 200-proof politics has said all along, we have to give McDonnell the benefit of the doubt: but this means “reasonable doubt,” not ANY doubt. Is it reasonable that is wife bought and sold Star Scientific stock, and then gave it to the kids, all timed it would appear to satisfy a loophole in the disclosure laws, without telling her husband the Governor about it?

According to the First Lady’s new lawyer (another $1,000-an-hour top rated criminal lawyer from DC), this is true. By the way: How are the broke McDonnells paying for yet another hugely expense legal eagle?  According to the McDonnell legal/PR team, he knew nothing, he was indeed Sgt. Schultz all the way on this stock stuff.

Now we see what McDonnell’s crack PR guy cracked up in public by attacking Jonnie Williams for cooperating with the federal investigation. We now see one of things Williams knows, namely how the whole stock thing played out, what he promised to the First Lady, et. al. Is it reasonable for the Governor to say that he knew of none of it, none at all? Naturally it depends on the whole set of facts, what else the feds have in this area of the scandal. We suspect more than is in the newspapers today.

But let’s bottom line it: Suppose the Governor didn’t have knowledge of the stock stuff in terms of it creating any legal responsibility under all the statues at issue. HOW MUCH THEN, is it fair to impute, to glue, to the Governor for purposes of a federal grand jury investigation and possible indictment?

Or put another way: Under Democratic theory, Ms. McDonnell is really Maureen McDonnell, an independent person, free to do whatever she pleases, or as the famous line goes: “If you can’t sleep with the one you want, then sleep with the one you’re with.” Financially speaking, of course, in this case.

In the Mississippi Trading Scandal, the men had to take full responsibility for all actions done in their name, or reasonably related. There was no “my wife did it, or my wife made me do it” defense.  Things are different today, as they should be.

SO: Can the Governor win with a Sgt. Schultz defense? We need more facts. Given all the logical inferences from what we know, he has some convincing to do on that score. He knew nothing at all?  But it is possible given the timeline in the paper. However, the timeline seems almost too coincidental, as if timed so that he could deny it.

However, the W—-T—- nature of the First Lady might save him: I can see where she didn’t tell him, that she wanted all the stock gains for herself.  But surely the Governor must have asked his wife before signing the disclosure statement, indeed upon hearing about the $50K loan: “Maureen, what the heck did Jonnie give you $50K for, what did you do to earn that kind of money?”

Surely most men would ask their significant other this question, not merely accept that someone had given your wife $50K just to give it to her. What man is going to not ask his wife about it? So put me down as from Missouri, a little farther up the Big Muddy. I will give Big McD the benefit of the doubt right now: but he needs to tell me more quick.  

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